Archive for the ‘Gun Violence’ Category

Super Bowl XLVII used to play an annoying game when I was a child. I’d ask why. I’d ask why all the time and I’d keep on asking why until the adult I was asking would give up trying to answer. I’d ask why, not for the sake of curiosity, but because I knew that at some point it would be impossible for the adult to answer why.

Back then, it may have been a subtle way to undermine authority, but at some point in my development, the persistent questioning of why we do the things we do led to a realization. When we break down our motivations far enough, we come to unanswerable questions.

We’re a bit of a mess in this sense. We act on urges, drives and motivators, and then we deal with the repercussions of the actions that those compulsions prompt us to perform. As this happens, we constantly try and fail to understand from where the unexplained pressures of those obligations come.

Then, because we’re conflicted beings – curious enough to ask why, but often too lazy to accurately answer our own question – we either end our pursuit prematurely, or we answer the unanswerable questions with fictions. The urge to have an explicable answer isn’t curiosity. True curiosity leads to the unknown. The desire to have a neat answer is stronger than that. It’s so strong in fact that it allows us to convince ourselves of fictions, and explain away questions about motivation with nonsense.

This conflict is especially difficult for writers, who feel a simultaneous urge to not only understand motivation, but also explain it to others. It’s not a gift. It’s likely more closely aligned with a social deficiency. The majority of us do little more than read aloud the subtitles that foreign film audiences already see and can read for themselves, while the worst of us peddle fictions as truth and the best of us illustrate how little we all know about anything.

On Wednesday, when Aaron Hernandez was charged with the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd, I felt the urge to write about it. I write about sports for a living, and this subject seemed like it was important to sports in a big picture, what-does-it-all-mean sort of way. There was one problem: It wasn’t.

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gambling header14-years-old is an awful age to go on a family vacation. No one understands your oh-so-unique struggle to grow up. Your body’s chemistry is changing more than Barry Bonds on a regimen of Victor Conte-prescribed elixirs. And you hate everything.

You hate school. You hate your teachers. You hate your friends. You hate the person on whom you have a crush. You even hate the band that like totally gets you. You hate the world. But above all else you hate your family and you hate restrictions. Traveling and living in close quarters with your mom, dad, brother and sister or whatever combination of that set best describes your specific situation growing up is nothing short of detestable.

We’re pretty disgusting creatures when we’re 14 – old enough to be cynical, but too inexperienced to properly apply our criticisms to anything constructive.

It was at this age, on a family vacation to Florida, that my first experience with gambling occurred. On a day in which the rest of my family was going on a helicopter tour, motivated by the $100 in savings found in not having me along, I was allowed a day to myself. Of course, I spent the afternoon at a greyhound racetrack, where the adage that misery loves company is tested by the collective self-loathing making those in attendance incapable of loving anything.

It took a dozen races for me to work up enough courage to attempt to place a bet. I was underage, and if my pimply baby-face didn’t give that fact away, my complete and utter lack of confidence would have. I stood in line for less than 30 seconds before an older gentleman – a gentleman only relative to the others in attendance – pulled me aside to inform me that a greyhound had a better chance of placing a bet on himself than I did. He offered to wager for me.

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hi-oscar-in-court-852-rtr3eAfter six hours of proceedings on Friday, Magistrate Desmond Nair granted bail to Oscar Pistorius despite the many “improbabilities” in his version of events leading up to Reeva Steenkamp’s violent death on February 14th.

The final summations from prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defense attorney Barry Roux were as tense as the first three days of the bail application, as a fiery debate arose over how much of a flight risk a world-famous double-amputee with prosthetic legs poses if he were to be released.

Nel said Pistorius has the “money, means and motive” to flee if given bail, and used WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as an example of a well-known person avoiding prosecution by seeking refuge elsewhere.Roux countered by suggesting that even before the murder charge Pistorius caused commotions going through airport security.

Once both parties had rested their cases, the magistrate spoke for two hours, thoroughly expressing his thoughts on all of the factors that he considered in reaching his decision. Most importantly, he said that while the lead detective, Hilton Botha, had made egregious errors in his investigation, the magistrate didn’t believe that it was enough to compromise the prosecution’s case. He also stated that Pistorius’s willingness to hand in his passport combined with his ties to South Africa made him an unlikely flight risk.

Before making his decision known, Nair emphasized the improbabilities in Pistorius’s version of what happened, but said that his willingness to give a detailed account weighed heavily with him. This, combined with the prosecution’s failure to fully establish factors for refusing bail – including proof of access to another home in Italy – meant that he had little choice but to grant it to the runner.

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65EBD2175124ABE81A9F3C68D86BAIt’s surprising that lead investigator Hilton Botha didn’t exhibit more empathy during his testimony at Oscar Pistorius’s bail hearing on Wednesday. The police detective was beyond forthcoming when it came to laying out the prosecution’s case against the runner accused of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but failed to mention that he too has been charged in connection with a shooting.

According to Police Brigadier Neville Malila, Botha is scheduled to appear in court this coming May to face seven counts of attempted murder from a shooting-incident in 2011. Botha, along with two other police officers, were in pursuit of a taxi mini-bus when they opened fire on it despite it housing seven passengers inside. The case against the detectives, which included accusations of drunkenness, were eventually dismissed. However, the charges were reinstated on Tuesday, one day before Botha was set to testify at Pistorius’s bail hearing.

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hi-oscar-pistorius-20-cp-04There are two stories emerging from the court proceedings underway in South Africa, which began yesterday to determine if Oscar Pistorius should be allowed bail after he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp with a 9 mm pistol on February 14th. The first is about the evidence collected by police on that night, and Pistorius’s explanation for its more damning aspects. The second is the media coverage of the first.

Even before a tabloid’s touch, it all seems rather salacious. A national athletic star shoots his model girlfriend, who has a law degree, on Valentine’s Day. These are enough details to send the editors of church newsletters into a tizzy of anticipation. Throw in a possible love triangle with another national sporting star in South Africa, add the “boxes and boxes” of steroids and testosterone that were found at the scene, and don’t forget about the bloody cricket bat that was supposedly used to bash in the door. Now, it seems we can add a feisty legal duel between prosecution and defence.

Suddenly, memories of the O.J. Simpson trial begin to elicit yawns.

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Bail Hearing Held As Oscar Pistorius Contests Murder ChargeWe’re not always the smartest animals. We’re convinced of things that aren’t true all the time. Lying wouldn’t be a problem at all if it wasn’t effective. Combine our easily manipulated minds with an overwhelming urge to find easy answers to difficult questions, and the result is someone who calls into sports radio programs with strong opinions on topics about which they’re largely ignorant.

However, expressing an uneducated opinion on the pass blocking skills of the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line is one thing; fervently judging the legitimacy of murder accusations against an athlete are quite another. Sadly, the unwritten rules that govern our freedom to utter sports-related beliefs without proper evidence extends into the real world all too often for the sports fan when he or she is presented with a sports-related story that has actual social implications.

This ugly phenomenon has most recently been seen in the case of South African Olympic inspiration and Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, who was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a popular South African model and spokesperson for women’s rights. On Tuesday, as Steenkamp’s body was buried, Pistorius told his version of events to a courtroom for the first time during his bail application.

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nypostThe cover of this morning’s New York Post, that bastion of good journalism, screams “Blade Slays Blonde,” with accompanying photographs of a bikini-clad murder victim and a legless murder suspect. “Legless Olympian arrested” the headline further explains.

Continuing in the newspaper’s tradition of carrying the utmost respect for the sanctity of human life is the New York Daily News, which went with the more subtle headline of “Blade Gunner.”

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